Beyond Pension Debts, Tennessee Owes $10.2B In Public Employee Retirement Benefits

Net Liabilities In Tennessee For Other Post-employment Benefits, Which Consist Mainly Of Health Care Obligations To Retired Public Employees, Stood At About $10.2 Billion In Fiscal Year 2019. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

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Published March 16, 2021

The Center Square –

Net liabilities in Tennessee for other post-employment benefits (OPEBs), which consist mainly of health care obligations to retired public employees, stood at about $10.2 billion in fiscal year 2019, according to a new analysis from the Reason Foundation

With a population of 6,829,174, the state posted a per capita OPEB liability of $1,490, which represents the 27th-highest value among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Reason study found. 

In total, these liabilities amount to 6% of the U.S. gross domestic product, the researchers said. These debts are also geographically concentrated, with 15 government jurisdictions representing 50% of the total, the study found. 

In addition, any plan to expand Medicare to those under age 65 would result in the federal government assuming a large share of state and local OPEB liabilities, according to the Reason Foundation. This effectively would transfer wealth to states such as New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, states such as South Dakota don’t offer such OPEB benefits, and other agencies are ending such benefits for new employees, according to the analysis.

Fiscal-Year 2019 State and Local OPEB Liabilities:

StateOPEB DebtPopulationOPEB per CapitaRank (OPEB per Capita)
New York$313,920,086,64619,453,561$16,1371
New Jersey$101,478,261,9928,882,190$11,4252
Delaware$8,657,258,594973,764$8,8913
Hawaii$12,393,188,4911,415,872$8,7534
Connecticut$28,336,538,0833,565,287$7,9485
Massachusetts$47,523,075,6886,892,503$6,8956
Maryland$38,942,487,3776,045,680$6,4417
Illinois$73,679,046,56212,671,821$5,8148
Louisiana$23,581,901,6914,648,794$5,0739
California$183,614,985,49139,512,223$4,64710
Vermont$2,868,911,672623,989$4,59811
North Carolina$41,342,789,10110,488,084$3,94212
Texas$110,800,605,21028,995,881$3,82113
Rhode Island$3,370,956,9151,059,361$3,18214
Michigan$30,953,054,4369,986,857$3,09915
South Carolina$15,792,680,7695,148,714$3,06716
Pennsylvania$38,539,986,43312,801,989$3,01017
District of Columbia$2,120,897,000750,749$2,82518
Alabama$12,177,481,8614,903,185$2,48419
Georgia$24,075,621,49510,617,423$2,26820
New Hampshire$2,973,172,9431,359,711$2,18721
Maine$2,924,651,8821,344,212$2,17622
New Mexico$4,499,598,8482,096,829$2,14623
Wyoming$1,137,947,859578,759$1,96624
Kentucky$7,988,647,1394,467,673$1,78825
Alaska$1,293,880,851731,545$1,76926
Tennessee$10,172,688,0626,829,174$1,49027
West Virginia$2,670,376,8571,792,147$1,49028
Wisconsin$7,122,825,0625,822,434$1,22329
Nevada$3,497,420,3563,080,156$1,13530
Florida$22,837,941,23321,477,737$1,06331
Ohio$11,592,626,04811,689,100$99232
Washington$6,799,221,7547,614,893$89333
Arkansas$2,495,413,9623,017,804$82734
Missouri$5,044,035,0106,137,428$82235
Virginia$5,716,050,2258,535,519$67036
Oklahoma$2,199,836,3113,956,971$55637
Oregon$2,144,405,8654,217,737$50838
Minnesota$2,742,244,2335,639,632$48639
Nebraska$889,275,1371,934,408$46040
Colorado$2,584,825,5485,758,736$44941
Iowa$1,379,321,3773,155,070$43742
Arizona$2,322,647,3007,278,717$31943
Mississippi$789,643,9442,976,149$26544
Montana$280,486,9101,068,778$26245
Kansas$568,013,0222,913,314$19546
Indiana$1,245,566,2926,732,219$18547
Idaho$254,923,3231,787,065$14348
Utah$375,298,5203,205,958$11749
South Dakota$75,933,081884,659$8650
North Dakota$62,375,435762,062$8251
Source: Reason Foundation
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